Thomas Jefferson Papers

Unidentified Correspondent, with Closing by “Thomas Dissatisfaction” to Thomas Jefferson, 8 October 1820

From an Unidentified Correspondent,
with Closing by “Thomas Dissatisfaction”

Chapel Hill Octr 8th 1820

Dear Brother

I am once more seated to perform a duty which unintentionly has been delayed too long. But, as I have your promise to answer me when I write, no circumstance shall prevent my enjoying that pleasure. Altho we are seperated by an immense tract of country yet there still exists a tie between us, which will forever make the situation of the one more or less interesting to the other of us; the disparity of our ages I know necessarily breaks off that familiarity & intimacy which is common to brothers nearer the same age. As I am not able to give you a fanciful idea of this little village or work upon your imagination in any great degree by a discription of my situation in it, I hope you will excuse a plain statement of facts concerning them. Chapel Hill is a small village in the county of Orange with a population of nearly 500 inhabitants including the students of the university, Its situation is rather hilly, which gives it something of a romantic appearance. The buildings are of wood, (with few exceptions) and quite ordinary.1 The inhabitants generally are poor, tho they by their industry & exertions support a plain neatness, which would cause strangers to judge them in a tolerable state of independence. The adjacent country is tolerably fertile and produces in abundance the articles of corn & wheat. Here you may be surprised, when I tell you that by the exertions of one man a university was established at this place. Genl Davie who was once minister from the US. to France or Russia one, (I do not exactly recollect which) while in the legislature of this state procured the passage of a bill making this establishment. The legislature afterwards gave him the power to locate the university wherever he chose.2 he

Accordingly Placed it at this damned village, with the3 best curses of the Students for Such location. I am your


Thomas Dissatisfaction


I am great friend of your political tenets & am really sorry you could not give better advice to Genl Davie.

T D.

RC (MHi); written in two unidentified hands, with portion by “Thomas Dissatisfaction” probably added to an incomplete, unrelated missive to an unknown recipient; endorsed by TJ as an anonymous letter received 27 Oct. 1820, with additional notation “insane,” and so recorded in SJL.

William Richardson Davie, the founder of the University of North Carolina, introduced the 1789 bill chartering the institution, oversaw its early construction and endowment, and was responsible for selecting the school’s location, first faculty, and curriculum. He later served as minister plenipotentiary to France in 1799–1800, during which time he helped negotiate an end to the Quasi-War between that country and the United States (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography [1979–96], 2:28–9).

1Omitted period at right margin editorially supplied.

2Remainder in hand of “Thomas Dissatisfaction.”

3Manuscript: “the the.”

Index Entries

  • anonymous authors; letters from search
  • Chapel Hill, N.C.; as site of University of North Carolina search
  • Chapel Hill, N.C.; described search
  • corn; as crop search
  • Davie, William Richardson; as founder of University of North Carolina search
  • Davie, William Richardson; minister plenipotentiary to France search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; anonymous letters to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; correspondents described by TJ as insane search
  • mental illness; correspondents described by TJ as insane search
  • North Carolina, University of; establishment of search
  • North Carolina; agriculture in search
  • North Carolina; legislature of search
  • schools and colleges; University of North Carolina search
  • wheat; as crop search